As Ohio’s medical marijuana industry continues to take shape with cultivators, processors and testing labs ready to operate or nearing that point, so, too, is the building in Warren that will be the only dispensary in Trumbull County.
Renovation is underway at the former office of well-known eye doctor Isaac Torem at 2932 Youngstown Road SE to turn it into a dispensing facility.
“We demoed the inside and are rebuilding it, extending the brick walls, getting all new interior,” said Todd Cain with Green Leaf Medical of Ohio II LLC, which holds a provisional license for the dispensary.
Signs are expected to go up by the end of February, and Cain said he hopes the business will be open by the middle of March.
The dispensary still needs its certificate of operation from the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy, which regulates dispensaries.
“We need to go through pre-inspection. As soon as pre-inspection is complete with the state of Ohio, we can finish up and open the doors,” Cain said.
Cain declined to discuss security at the dispensary, saying only it will be “intense.”
Plans on file for the facility in Warren’s Building Department show a 688-square-foot garage addition to the 3,520-square-foot building. The roof also has been raised four feet.
Inside, there are sorting, secure storage and waiting rooms and dispensary, cashier, registration, consultation and office areas. The construction is valued at $250,000.
“All my permits are in order,” said Chris Taneyhill, Warren’s chief building official. “The work is getting inspected as they go. There are no issues there.”
The provisional license enabled the holders to create dispensaries in compliance with program rules and gave them time to show compliance by completing a successful on-site inspection by board of pharmacy officials. There were 56 provisional licenses granted to dispensaries last year.
Once a dispensary is awarded a certificate of operation, it can begin to sell medical marijuana to patients and caregivers in Ohio in accordance with the state’s rules and laws.
One certificate of operation has been issued so far in Ohio, said Grant Miller, spokesman for the board of pharmacy. That was on Dec. 12 to CY-Plus in Wintersville, but, Miller said, there is no product yet to sell.
It was announced Dec. 20 the first test lab was operational, Miller said.
“At this time, while we have a testing lab in place, we still don’t have product availability,” Miller said.
Kerry Francis, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Commerce, which regulates cultivators, processors and testing labs, said 14 of the 29 cultivators with a provisional license have certificates to operate and are able to grow.
There are 14 processors with provisional licenses, but the state is able to award up to 26 more, she said. One of the five testing labs given a provisional license — North Coast in Streetsboro — has its operational certificate.
As soon as within the next couple of weeks, it’s expected the first transactions at a “very limited number” of dispensaries in Ohio will happen, said Alex Thomas, executive director of the Ohio Medical Marijuana License Holder Association.
Because each of the parts in the industry — cultivators, processors and testing labs — were awarded provisional licenses at different times, they are at different points in the process of opening, causing a bit of a wait.
A “good number” of cultivators planted the day they received the OK to do so or very shortly thereafter, and “several have harvested product, dried and cured that is waiting for the other license levels to come online,” Thomas said.
Several dispensaries, he said, “are mere days away from opening their doors.”
North Coast is in the process of calibrating its testing equipment. “Once that happens, the testing lab can start receiving product,” Thomas said.
Thomas said he expects early sales to primarily be of marijuana flowers, which is permissible under Ohio law, along with the processed marijuana. Processed marijuana can take multiple forms, including oils and edibles.
Ohioans are not allowed to smoke the marijuana, but the flowers can be vaped or the buyer can process it him or herself into oil, Thomas said. He expects the trend to shift to other forms when processors begin to come online.
“It’s nice for patients because it does give them an option in the immediate couple months to give them some relief,” Thomas said. “It’s not as good as in the processed form, but it’s better than having them wait.”